Friday, September 15, 2006
If the President does what this reader suggests--consistently prohibit torture under any and all circumstances, and yet recognize the doctrine of neccessity, then he has simply ducked his responsibilities, and ensured that the decision would be made at the lowest level, by the least experienced personnel, for the same reason that abortion rights advocates fear that an outright ban on abortion would result in the rise of 'back-alley butchers.'
Those intelligence officials who take matters into their own hands risk having to explain themselves before a jury. This is no different from a strict ban at all, since defendants will seek refuge under the claim of neccessity anyway, and try to convince a jury of the soundness of their arguments, quite independently from whether the President chooses to recognize the doctrine of neccessity.
What I am trying to get at is that there is a huge difference between dealing with a moral question in the hypothetical, dealing with it in person, and dealing with it as an executive who actually has to set policy within a bureaucracy for other people to follow, and whose every decision has ramifications of precedent for future instances which cannot be forseen.
If the President, privately understanding the moral imperative hides his head in the sand and says 'boys, you're on your own!' then his policy is liable to actually result in more torture or abuse under the discretion of low-level officials under increasingly questionable instances of Bowden's doctrine of neccessity. It's an imperative the President understands, but paradoxically cannot express. Only the defendant will be able to express it.
And meanwhile the people at the bottom of the chain of command, the youngest and least experienced, and the people who actually do have to wrestle with the moral imperative, and weigh the human rights of the prisoner against an unknown probability of an unknown number of deaths, are forced to make these calls on the spot, and are thrown to the prosecutorial wolves because their leadership refused to make the decision?
No--our thinking is not yet adequate to address the question, although Bowden makes some important steps in the right direction.
I'm just not willing to let the senior political leadership duck its own responsibilities both to public safety and to the troops who actually have to do the interrogating.
The whole thing is here:
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